Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Hero's Two Journeys - A Review

This is a short review of THE HERO'S TWO JOURNEYS from Michael Hauge and Chris Vogler.  If you read much of this blog, or have read my book, The Moral Premise, you'll know that uniting the inner and outer journey of the protagonist into a cohesive whole, about one true thing, is the crux of all stories that connect emotionally with audiences. Thus, this DVD/MP3-CD set is a valuable resource for writers. In addition to recapping their own expertise proven over decades of work in Hollywood, Michael and Chris reveal many practical story secrets that bring together a hero's inner and outer journey so the story will resonate with audiences.

My introduction to Michael Hauge (left) was years ago during one of his national tours when I attended his two-day Detroit workshop. You'll see him cited numerous times in my book.  When "The Moral Premise" was released, Chris Vogler (right) offered to write the book's Foreword. Then as I started to work as a story consultant in Hollywood, I found myself on the same side of the table with Michael (on SEVEN POUNDS) and then again with Chris on a movie yet to be released.

The package, published by and the other usual sources like Amazon, includes 4 discs (3 DVDs and a MP3/CD-ROM) with over 10 hours of workshop material from Michael and Chris. (The "CD" disc in my package is mislabeled a "Compact Disc." Instead it is a MP3/CD-ROM filled with files from what looks like 6 CDs. Most players (CD, DVD) can read the disc and these files, but the easiest way to access them is through your computer and download them to a MP3 player.)

Here are some brief notes on the content from the main attraction of the package, their joint DVD workshop on joining the inner and outer journey.


I have written before on this topic because it is critical for the audience to get under the skin and in the mind of the story's characters, especially the protagonist. Movies resonate with audiences only when the audience can physically root for the protagonist (in the physical story,) and mentally participate in his or her decisions (in the psychological story). Of course, the two journeys are really just one story, as any person is one person with two identities -- what we are like on the outside, and what we are like on the inside. But what we are on the inside is what motivates (or causes) what happens on the outside. (See The Moral Premise, Chapter 6.)

So, here are five ways that Michael Hauge says you can use to foster the audience's immediate emotional identification with your character(s):
  1. Make the character sympathetic, the victim of undeserved misfortune.
  2. Put the character in jeopardy. We ID with people we worry about.  Many stories start with an orphan.
  3. Make character likable, kind, goodhearted. They need to be relatable, not likable.
  4. Make characters funny. We like to be with people who make us feel good about ourselves or have the courage to say things we don't.
  5. Make characters powerful, or very good at what they do. 
Michael says to use at least two of these. But the more the better. In CRAZY HEART, Bad Blake embodies all five: 1 (we feel sorry for whatever took Blake to the depths he's in), 2 (Blake is constantly on the verge of either getting fired from a gig or killing himself), 3 (he is goodhearted), 4 (he's says things we'd never say but at times have wanted to say), and 5 (he can be a good songwriter and performer). Result? ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST ACTOR. (Blog post on CRAZY HEART.)

Michael's best selling book is WRITING SCEENPLAYS THAT SELL.


Chris writes mostly about the 12 Steps of the Mythic Hero (THE WRITER'S JOURNEY). In one part of this DVD set he talks about how the hero begins in the Ordinary World and spends Act 2 in a Special World where the values are much different. That conflict of values is the character's INNER conflict that sets up the OUTER conflict.

Chris' insight in this speaks to the vice and virtue of the moral premise statement, and how the main characters, upon entering the Special World, are forced to make some concessions to their life, in order to return to some degree of normalcy once the journey and the story are over.

The Ordinary World and the Special World are both physical entities, but the different set of values (psychologically) are the things that drive the action differently in these two worlds.  All action begins in the mind with a set of values. [The above illustration is from the Moral Premise workshop.]

The Special World, physically, can also become an excellent METAPHOR for what is happening in the "unconscious mind".


One  point I feel a bit contrary about is when Michael says:
The inner meaning grows out of the outer journey. 
Here is what I think he means: The outer journey is the result of an inner conflict of values, but by experiencing the outer journey's difficulty, the character learns something spiritual or mentally. Thus, the inner learning comes as a result of the outer experience. One of the two gentlemen explains it something like this: (here paraphrased):
The inner journey is a journey of fulfillment where the character changes from say "protection" to "courage" from "fear" to "courage, or from "being uninvolved" to "being involved."
[Sounds like the beginnings of a Moral Premise statement.]


In another place, Michael says: 
What I love about this... is that although we're talking about all these fictional characters, I'm also talking about real life. The characters in movies mirror what we all do, and our own story.
Bingo! Even if our characters are in some fictional or fantasy world, their moral decisions must be similar in nature to the audience's day-in-day-out lives. And that is the best way to connect o audiences...write about their moral experiences. 


Another comparison that the men set up is the difference between persona (or personal identity) and essence (the person's true character). The story is about a character's journey from his outward persona and how his true (inner) self is revealed. There are a number of ways in which Hauge discusses this can happen. But I can't help but come back to the concept of the moral premise, and how the main characters all must traverse from some vice (what they are pretending to be) to some virtue (what their true selves tell them they ought to be). Michael points out that in romances,  especially romantic comedies, the girl falls for the guy's true essence. And when the guy lets his bravado go wild and struts around showing his (false) persona, the girl turns away. But when the guy gets in touch with his inner self and lets his virtue shine through, the armor gleams, and the girl comes running back.  Thus, in a good film, there is that conflict of values which is the conflict between the persona-mask, and the effort to get the characters to take the mask off, and enter Act 3 successfully.


A highlight of the DVDs is when Chris takes his traditional 12 Steps (from the Hero's Mythic OUTER Journey) and articulates their INNER counterparts. I'm going to short hand them here, but the comparison is valuable.
  1. Ordinary World: Limited awareness of internal problem.
  2. The Call to Adventure: Awareness that you need to change. 
  3. Refusal of the Call: Fear and resistance to change.
  4. Meeting the Mentor: Wisdom delivered that meets need.
  5. Crossing the Threshold: Committing to change.
  6. Testing by allies and enemies: Experimenting with the kind of change that is needed
  7. Approach: Preparing mentally for a major shift.
  8. Ordeal, death, and rebirth: Removal of the inner mask. Center shifts.
  9. Reward: Accepting consequences, both good and bad
  10. The road back: Rededication, and removal of the outer mask.
  11. Resurrection: Hero explains what was learned.
  12. Return with the Elixir: Mastery and future confidence. 

So, there are a few of the discussions that Hauge and Vogler cover in this excellent 4 disc set. Your writing will be better it.

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